Is Manish Pandey India”s new middle order main stay?: With an aggregate of 256 runs from 7 innings (once unbeaten) at an average of 42.66, with 104 as his highest score including a century and a couple of half-centuries in the Ranji Trophy 2015-16 and with an aggregate of 212 runs from 5 innings (once unbeaten) at an average of 53.0 with 94* as his individual best including 2 half-centuries in Vijay Hazare Trophy 2015, the 26-year old Manish Pandey, found himself travelling to Australia for the five-match ODI series.
Quite expectedly he was included in the Playing XI for the first encounter at Perth. Unfortunately his batting talent remained untested since he did not get an opportunity to bat as India piled up 309 runs for the loss of just 3 wickets in 50 overs but unfortunately could not defend the same.
Pandey got a second opportunity in the second game at Brisbane. Coming in to bat at No 6 in the 46th over, he lasted only for 5 deliveries and scored just 6 runs, including a boundary.
Even though India piled up 308 runs for the loss of 8 wickets in 50 overs, they failed to defend the same yet again.
Manish was duly dropped for the third encounter at Melbourne which also India lost, failing to defend 295 runs put up by their batsmen.
The story was no different at Canberra, the venue of the fourth clash between the two teams.
Pandey did not make it to the Playing XI. For a change, India had to chase 349 for a win, surprisingly collapsed from a very comfortable position of 277/3 to 323/10, losing 7 wickets for just 46 runs and lost the game.
Team India moved into Sydney, trailing 0-4 in the series, with just the fifth and final game to be played. They had to put their best foot forward to avoid a 0-5 whitewash. They had to play for pride and avoid a catastrophe.
Winning the toss, Aussies who were put into bat, did well to score 330 runs for the loss of 7 wickets in 50 overs, backed by 122 runs scored by David Warner (his fifth ODI century) and a well made unbeaten 102* runs by Mitchell Marsh (maiden ODI century).
Indian debutant Jasprit Bumrah showcased a wonderful bowling performance, picking up 2 wickets, giving away just 40 runs in his spell of 10 overs.
Chasing 331 runs for a win was never going to be easy. No team has succeeded in chasing 300+ runs against Australia in Australia. If India could do that, then they would be establishing a new record.
Beginning well, both the openers, Rohit Sharma and Shikhar Dhawan put up 123 runs in 18.2 overs for the first wicket, the best partnership in the match for any wicket.
Kohli departed early scoring just 8 runs and this brought the young Manish Pandey and Rohit Sharma together at the stage of 134/2 in 20.2 overs. The duo stayed put together for the next 14.3 overs adding 97 runs for the third wicket.
Rohit Sharma who had registered back-to-back centuries at Perth and Brisbane, was clearly on-course for a third century. However, he fell short of the landmark by a solitary run, when he edged a Hastings delivery into the waiting hands of Mathew Wade. Earlier he was dropped on 92 by Mitchell Marsh.
Meanwhile Pandey was piling up the runs at the other end. His half-century came in just 38 deliveries with the help of 4 fours and a six.
At Sharma’s departure, with the scoreboard reading 231/3 in 34.5 overs, India still had to score another 100 runs in 15.1 overs, skipper Dhoni joined Pandey in the middle.
Quite contrary to his known batting style, Dhoni was slow in picking up runs. He consumed as many as 64 deliveries for his 34 runs that had only one four and one six, bringing to fore a very uncharacteristic Dhoni innings.
At the other Pandey was keeping his cool and accumulating runs. He had been in such tough situations many a times in domestic games which came handy to him.
India entered the 50th over with 13 runs short of the target. The first delivery bowled by Mitchell Marsh was a wide one. The second delivery was dispatched onto the stands by Dhoni, reducing the required runs to 6 off 5 (legal) deliveries. Trying to go for another big hit, Dhoni was caught by David Warner. Meanwhile Pandey crossed over to the batting end.
Gurkeerat Singh Mann joined Pandey, who was on 98*, with 6 runs required off 4 deliveries for a win. Pandey steered the fourth delivery (third legal one) to the third-man boundary and completed his maiden ODI century. His century came off 80 deliveries with 8 fours and a six.
The remaining two runs required came easily in the fourth legal delivery of the 50th over and India crossed the line and registered their first win in the ODI series.
Pandey, who played a well-planned innings and finished the game for India, batted for 129 minutes, facing 81 deliveries for his unbeaten 104* runs that contained 8 fours and a six.
For his heroics with the bat, Pandey was adjudged the Player of the Match. The series ended 4-1 in favour of Australia.
Speaking at the post match presentation, Manish Pandey said, “Batting No. 4 is one of the chances I got because Ajju (Ajinkya Rahane) was injured, and I wanted to capitalise, especially on these wickets, with 300 scored in every match. Always nice to have Indian people in the stadium, it”s a big boost to us.”
Possibly Team India has found a new finisher in Manish Pandey. His cool and composed approach has definitely been impressive and if he gets more opportunities to play, he will only get better with every game.